Malaysia: MIFF such a success exhibitors signing up for next years’ fair

ITTO's Tropical Timber Market Report
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Tan Chin Huat, chairman of the Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF) said that exhibitors at last months’ fair reported record orders of RM2.63 billion (approximately US$854 million). MIFF attracted 18,397 trade visitors of which 6,054 were international buyers from 140 countries. The sales and visitors figures were considered very encouraging in view of current global economic uncertainties.

The MIFF was such a success that 70% of the exhibitors who participated in the recent fair have confirmed their participation in the next MIFF planned for March 2014. Tan said these are mostly Malaysian companies eager to increase exports. MIFF, an annual fair held in Kuala Lumpur for export furniture, is the second largest furniture fair outside China and widely respected as a leading show in Southeast Asia. The five day event this year had 504 exhibitors, of which 343 were Malaysian and the rest from 11 countries.

The MIFF 2013 attracted a good turnout of buyers from new markets as well as from the traditional markets of Australia, Japan and the United States. The fair covered 80,000 sq.m of exhibition space. MIFF is owned by UBM Asia which also runs Furniture China in Shanghai, Index Fairs in India and UK Interiors.

Domestic market remains quiet as general election approaches
Plywood mills are reporting low log stocks. It is perhaps fortunate as the domestic plywood market is very quiet. Most manufacturers say the domestic market is not expected to bounce back any time soon and they expect the current market conditions to last another 3 – 6 months. Some are hoping for increased sales after the Malaysian general elections though most say it is difficult to predict how the market will react after what could be a very tight run race in the election.

Domestic plywood prices:
Concrete formboard:
12mm 4’ x 8’, WBP glue, 5-ply (tropical timber)
RM 43.50/sheet ex mill
12 mm 7-ply (tropical timber)
RM 48.00/sheet ex mill
12 mm 5-ply (palm core)
RM 33.50/sheet to RM 35/pc ex mill

Sarawak mills indicate that export FOB prices for plywood (MR BB/CC) are 2.7 mm US$550 per cubic metre and US$445-450 for 9 mm & up. Sarawak export log prices are reportedly holding steady in light trading.

TTF views on marine ply a thorny issue for Malaysian exporters
Plywood exporters to markets in EU are currently deeply concerned about marine plywood certification. Problems surfaced in 2012 over the quality of marine plywood which prompted the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF) head of technical and trade policy, to say it was not sufficient for buyers to rely on the marking marine ply. He further said “merchants and those further down the supply chain needed to ask questions and check products properly, specifying and asking for evidence of marine plywood adhering to BS 1088:2003 (Marine Plywood)”.

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The National Panel Products Division of the UK TTF advised members not to buy marine plywood which does not have third party verification of the British Standard 1088:2003. This issue has been discussed for a long time and trade analysts say that UK importers are buying Malaysian marine plywood but selling it to end-users other boat/ship builders. It appears that the marine ply is being sold mainly for use in buildings and exporters point out that, for these end-uses, the plywood need only be CE Marked.

Plywood exporters mull diverting exports to less demanding markets
Many Malaysian producers report that EU and other overseas buyers are not willing to pay a higher price for third party verified marine plywood. Analysts have gained the impression that when UK importers of plywood begin to call for compulsory third party certification in June this year Malaysian plywood exporters could divert sales to markets in the Middle East, India, Japan and South Korea as these countries do not require additional certification for marine plywood.

Sabah exports
The authorities in Sabah recently released cumulative export statistics for January and February 2013:

Sawntimber 38,411 cu.m, RM 54,844,160
Plywood 93,890 cu.m, RM 140,575,521
Veneer 5,992 cu.m, RM 8,094,640
Mouldings 3,070 cu.m RM 9,770,856
Lamin boards 6,230 cu.m RM 10,183,412

Timber industry expects business as usual during elections
The Malaysian Prime Minister has dissolved the Federal Parliament in preparation for the country’s thirteenth general election, scheduled for 5 May 2013. Everyone anticipates this could be one of the most hotly contested elections in the country’s history. Apart from federal elections, all States, except Sarawak, will also be electing state governments. While the public are focused on the elections the timber industry expects to carry on business as usual.

5th FLEGT expert meeting held in Malaysia
The EU FLEGT Facility Newsletter for February / March 2013 reports that the Government of Malaysia and the EU met for the fifth Joint Experts Meeting in early March to discuss technical details of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement. The main focus of the meeting was Sabah’s revised timber legality assurance scheme (TLAS). The authorities in Sabah had revised the TLAS and further revisions were discussed.

The revised TLAS for Peninsular Malaysia and that for Sabah as well as the public disclosure documents for Sabah were presented at the 11th National Stakeholder Consultation in Kuala Lumpur on 28 March, says the EU newsletter. It was at this time that the Secretary General of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Nurmala Abdul Rahim, announced the formation of a MYTLAS Advisory Group.

The MYTLAS Advisory Group includes representatives from civil society, the timber trade and industry, forestry experts and key implementing agencies. All stakeholder consultation reports and MYTLAS documents are available online at the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities’ dedicated FLEGT-VPA website for Peninsular Malaysia. Stakeholder consultation documents for Sabah will be made available on Sabah’s FLEGT website when launched, says the EU newsletter.

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